20,000 acre heavily forested National Historic Park in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia administered by the National Park Service. The park provides excellent opportunities for hiking, backpacking, camping, wildlife observation, campfire programs. music, craft demonstrations, and natural, cultural, and historical study. 160 fee RV and tent campsites (no hookup) available. 50 miles of hiking trails and 5 backcountry campsites offer a unique wilderness experience for the rugged individual. The area features impressive sandstone bluffs and caves previously used as rock shelters by native American populations. Other features of interest include the Newlee Iron Furnace, the Pinnacle Overlook (handicapped accessible), and Hensley Settlement (a historic mountain farming community). The visitors center houses a small museum with interpretive displays on the natural and cultural history of the Gap, and features a short film on the history of the area as a travel artery. For more information contact the Visitor's Center at (606) 248-2847
Tennessee shares Cumberland Gap National Historic Park with Kentucky and Virginia, where the famous mountain pass lies, This park, established in 1940, when it was just a trail, was a main artery for western migration and was explored by Daniel Boone in the days of early America. The trail was called Cumberland Gap by Dr. Thomas Walker when he discovered it in 1750.
The Cumberland Gap was also the scene of considerable activity during the Civil War because it was of such strategic Importance, Because the Confederate loaders anticipated a Union invasion through the Gap (a logical assumption), it was well fortified. Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer held the Gap until June of 1861, when under the direction of General George Morgan, two Union brigades drove the Southern defenders out. In September, Confederate Gen. Stephenson's troops forced Morgan back into the Gap. The South's Gen. E. Kirby.Smith joined Stephenson to push Morgan back. When Morgan learned of the Confederate plan, he issued orders to retreat. Retrieving supplies stored in caves along the way, anything Morgan's troops couldn't carry was stock-piled and ready to be set afire. The explosion and subsequent wall of fire checked the Confederate advance and provided for a successful Union retreat.
Again in 1863, Union troops under Gen. Burnside met Stephenson here causing his retreat and ultimate surrender. Until the end of the War the Cumberland Gap and nearby community remained in Union hands.
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